A Moral Reckoning

PPCFrom The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival (August 8, 2019).

If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.
Jeremiah 7:5-8

One week ago, we were in El Paso at the invitation of the Border Network for Human Rights to highlight the violence that their community has been suffering. We heard stories of families separated, asylum seekers turned away and refugees detained like prisoners of war. We heard how their community has been militarized and how poor border communities have been especially targeted. We promised that we would do everything in our power to compel the nation to see this violence. Just a few days later, a terrorist opened fire in El Paso. And then another attack occurred in Dayton. Continue reading

Jesus of Nazareth, Arsonist

FireBy Wes Howard-Brook and Sue Ferguson Johnson, on this Sunday’s Gospel text (Luke 12:49-56)

*Note: this piece was originally posted on RadicalDiscipleship.net during the summer of 2016.

Jesus, erstwhile proclaimer of peace and love, hopes for fire and anticipates division within households. Was the Lord having a bad day on the Way to Jerusalem in this Sunday’s Gospel? How can we reconcile his word in this week’s lectionary text (Luke 12.49-56) with what we hear in the rest of Luke’s Gospel? Continue reading

Thoughts and Prayers

BayoFrom spiritual practitioner Bayo Akomolafe (Facebook, August 4, 2019). 

The phrase “thoughts and prayers” needs a new cosmology. The one it now operates in presumes ‘God’ is absolutely transcendent, heavenly, irretrievably cast away at an unbridgeable remove from our earthly goings-on. Brought down to our material earth, thoughts and prayers take on a new urgency. Thoughts become public things, the shared fabric through which my life becomes yours and yours mine; prayers become matters of accountability and justice. Thoughts and prayers should be ecological matters that enable us to meet ourselves, to share our tears and ask hard questions about our complicity in the suffering of others. Not Twitter templates that deepen our indifference and bypass our complacency, masking as piety.

A Series of Interrelated Self-Destroying Problems

KarengaFrom the conclusion of Dr. Maulana Karenga’s recent column in the Los Angeles Sentinel:

As I have noted elsewhere, “a society that cannot concede its problems cannot solve its problems. And a society that cannot solve its problems cannot survive its problems.” Certainly, we cannot deny America, U.S. society, has a series of interrelated self-destroying problems. And these basic problems cannot be summed up as Trump, although he represents them in one of their most raw, racist and unadorned forms. The struggle over what kind of America we will have is still being fought on the ground in every place and instance of oppression. Paul Robeson is right, “The battlefront is everywhere. There is no sheltered rear.” And the task, Fannie Lou Hamer tells us, is to constantly question America, and set aside all illusions of a “perfect union,” of freedom unfought for and of justice not gained and sustained in righteous and relentless struggle.

The Church is not Beholden

RomeroFrom Revolutionary Saint: The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero by Michael E. Lee (Orbis Books, 2018), quoted by Chava Redonnet of Oscar Romero Inclusive Catholic Church (Upstate New York):

By viewing the church’s mission as service to God’s reign, Romero opens up a theological space that did not exist in the old colonial mind-set. The church is not beholden to the state, nor does it function to legitimize the status quo in the name of good ‘order.’ The reign of God and its criteria, not the government, should dictate the church’s action.

Stay Awake

St LukeBy Wes Howard-Brook & Sue Ferguson Johnson, on this week’s lectionary Gospel passage (Luke 12:32-40)

*Originally posted in August 2016.

In the soporific summertime, it is easy enough to lie back, close one’s eyes, and fall into a tranquil sleep. Indeed, many of us could use more sleep, driven as we often are by the exigencies of empire into never-ending task mode. Perhaps ironically, getting more sleep could help prepare us for Jesus’ word to us this Sunday: stay awake (12.32-40)!

The church cycle offers us Lent and Advent as seasonal opportunities to practice anti-imperial wakefulness. With school out, though, the church year seems to take a break from the call to faithful vigilance. But the lectionary surprises us this week, just as Jesus’ message within the text from Luke gives us images of surprising arrivals. Perhaps equally surprisingly, a close listen to our Gospel text invites us to hear precisely what we are called to stay awake against: the lure of the exploitative, anxiety-ridden, imperial economy. At the same time, we are called to stay awake for the opportunity to be servants to one another and all creation. Continue reading

An Exquisite Lesson in Creating Ideology

TaylorAn excerpt from KEEANGA-YAMAHTTA TAYLOR’s review of Becoming by Michelle Obama (re-posted from Boston Review, March 2019).  

In Becoming, Obama describes the value of telling one’s story this way: “Even when it’s not pretty or perfect. Even when it’s more real than you want it to be. Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.” For Obama, a person’s story is an affirmation of their space in the world, the right to be and belong. “In sharing my story,” she says, “I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why. . . . Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us.” The root of discrimination, Obama implies, including the ugly discrimination she faced as first lady, is misunderstanding. Sharing personal narratives, then, offers a way for people to fully see each other and to overcome our differences. Continue reading